Mihkelson: Incoming government lacking common concept on border

MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform).
MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonia's incoming three-party coalition government is lacking a common set of ideas regarding the Estonian-Russian border, Reform Party MP Marko Mihkelson, former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, said in his comments regarding this week's meeting between President Kersti Kaljulaid and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"It will only be possible for us to evaluate the true significance of this meeting later, when it has become clear to what extent the new Ratas government will start addressing Estonian-Russian relations," Mr Mihkelson wrote on social media, referring to the second government of Centre Party chairman Jüri Ratas.

"The situation is particularly problematic due to the fact that, for the first time since 1994, Estonia is set to have a government, the parties of which have very different visions regarding solving the biggest issue in Estonian-Russian relations — the border issue," he highlighted. "Speak nothing of the nuance that Estonia's future foreign minister is on the so-called blacklist in Russia."

The Reform MP also noted that Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Russian president, indicated on Friday that the meeting purportedly convinces one of Russia's friendliness toward its neighbours.

"Putin seems to be interested in giving rise to the disinformational understanding that NATO is delusional and Russia is only on the defensive," he explained. "Please note what Russian Ambassador [to Estonia Alexander] Petrov said: citizens allegedly do not want NATO troops here. The meeting may signal that leaders of the Baltic countries are ready to return to business as usual in relations, thereby calming some capitals in Europe. It is definitely the option least suited for Estonia in which an illusion is created that deterrence against Russia is not necessary."

Mr Mihkelson also noted that everything in bilateral relations thus far has been held up by Russia.

"Even the double taxation agreement requires the approval of the [State] Duma alone, as the Riigikogu has ratified it already," he cited as an example. "The same has been true for the border treaty, because the Riigikogu has on two occasions demonstrated its readiness to put the treaties to ratification."

According to the Reform MP, Mr Putin's complaint that the two heads of state haven't met for a long time sounded like he was blaming Estonia for it.

"However, interaction has in fact been restricted by Russia's continuing aggression against Ukraine and the grave violation of international law in the unlawful annexation of Crimea," he continued. "Not to mention other instances of interference in the international affairs of Western countries."

Mr Mihkelson noted that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, of which he remains a member, will address the topic of Estonian-Russian relations at the first opportunity.

"As the president has given it such high visibility, it would be strange if we didn't react to it," he wrote at the conclusion of his post. "It's just a pity that we are doing so retroactively."

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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